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Doctors order needless tests to avoid medical malpractice claims

Doctors in Ohio and across the nation are fearful of medical malpractice claims. In fact, it is known that doctors often engage in what is called "defensive medicine" in an effort to prevent a medical malpractice lawsuit. Defensive medicine occurs when a doctor orders unnecessary tests and procedures solely to protect him- or herself from a possible claim of medical malpractice.

With these issues in mind, Ohio residents may be interested in a recent survey of 1,200 orthopedic surgeons. The survey revealed what many people who are familiar with the medical community already knew: that doctors and other medical professionals order billions of dollars worth of needless tests in an effort to protect against medical malpractice lawsuits. In fact, 91 percent of the doctors who responded to the survey said that physicians order unnecessary tests.

Since patients count on doctors for an accurate diagnosis, it is unsettling for many people to learn that a doctor will charge a patient more money for needless medical procedures. It was even estimated that 24 percent of the medical tests ordered by orthopedic surgeons are unnecessary.

In addition to practicing defensive medicine, doctors are asking for a nationwide cap on malpractice monetary awards similar to Ohio's pain and suffering caps. Patients suffering the pain and agony of a medical mistake argue that plaintiffs already face great obstacles in bringing a successful malpractice claim, and creating more obstacles to fair compensation would result in even more harm to injured patients.

While it is understandable that doctors might order tests so that no diagnosis is missed, it is unfair that patients have to foot the bill for a needless procedure that shouldn't occur if a doctor is treating a patient properly.

Ultimately, patients must be aware of their rights, which include not having to shoulder the burden of unnecessary medical testing. If such testing has occurred, patients may have the right to compensation for damages.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Doctors go on the defensive with tests," Lora Hines, Feb. 20, 2012

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